Alabuga Skills: 4 days non-stop

18 specialists of TAIF-NK JSC has taken part in the republican professional skills competition

Alabuga Skills: 4 days non-stop
Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

About 200 representatives of dozens of Tatarstan enterprises found out who is the best in 22 professional competencies. In nine of them, the honour of the native company was defended by specialists of various TAIF-NK productions. The journalist of Realnoe Vremya watched how the competitions went. At the same time, he didn't miss the opportunity to ask: what it is like to work at one of the leading and innovative oil refineries in Russia and the world, as well as what career opportunities it offers.

From year to year — more opportunities

Alabuga Skills is a relatively new competition. For the first two years, it gathered professionals from Yelabuga district alone. In 2022, with the support of the rais of Tatarstan, Rustam Minnikhanov, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Industry and Trade of the Republic of Tatarstan Oleg Korobchenko, the competition was raised to the republican level. Then the competitions were held in 20 competencies, and it was only about young specialists.

In 2023, several more innovations have been introduced into the rules of Alabuga Skills. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

In 2023, the organisers of the competition decided to make several more improvements. The first is that enterprises have the opportunity to put not one, as before, but two representatives in each competence. The second and, perhaps, the main change — the age restrictions for participants have been removed. The competition has ceased to be a competition of young professionals, but has become a competition of professionals of all ages. According to the organisers, this is only an advantage. After all, in addition to the competitive part, such events carry another important mission: the exchange of experience. In conversations with the participants, the journalist of Realnoe Vremya repeatedly heard an interesting idea that not only young people have something to learn from colleagues with serious experience, but also yesterday's graduates of universities and colleges have something to share with their older comrades. At the same time, there is no question of teamwork — this is a competition, and there can be only one absolute winner in each competence.

This year's competitions have been held at three venues: in the mechanical workshops of the Yelabuga Polytechnic College, on the basis of Progress driving school, and in Alabuga-Polytech educational centre.

For the second time at republican level

In 2022, only 7 specialists represented TAIF-NK at Alabuga Skills. This time, Anton Tukhvatullin, the head of the technical training group of TAIF-NK JSC, who heads the team, have brought 18 people to the competition.

Anton Tukhvatullin: “For specialists of TAIF-NK, Alabuga Skills is an opportunity to exchange experience, show themselves and look at others. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

“We are participating in the republican contest for the second time. But, in addition, our company has its own internal competitions of professional skills. And some of the winners of those contests are now representing the company here," Anton Tukhvatullin told the journalist of Realnoe Vremya. He also added: “For our specialists, this is an opportunity to exchange experiences, show themselves and look at others. One's own experience is, of course, great, but if there is an opportunity to get acquainted and exchange experience with specialists from other enterprises, then this is good for everyone. Besides, our guys have an incentive: they always need to develop, they always need to strive for the best. Well, after winning such contests, they are enthusiastically involved in daily work, in the performance of their immediate duties.

Rishat Gusamov: “Main tasks of metrology are the same, but...”

“On this site, we have competitions in 9 competencies. The professional skills competition takes place in 4 days. And the largest volume of participants is right here with us. 125 people in 4 days. Experts came from Naberezhnye Chelny, Nizhnekamsk, Leninogorsk, plus ours — from the EPK, as well as from enterprises. The experts are WorldSkills certified," explained Svetlana Borisova, Senior Master of the Yelabuga Polytechnic College.

Svetlana Borisova: “The largest number of contestants compete at the EPK site.” Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

“On our basis of mechanical workshops of the Yelabuga Polytechnic College, the republican contest of professional skills of turners and milling workers on CNC machines and universal machines, 3 types of welding work on different equipment, metrology, standardisation and certification, as well as competitions of technologists in the specialty 'Technology of mechanical engineering' is held," the master of industrial training of the EPK, chief expert of Alabuga Skills 2023 on the Metrology, standardisation and certification competence, Alexander Sabirov, added to his colleague.

Alexander Sabirov: “A competition for 9 competencies is being held on the basis of the mechanical workshops of the EPK.” Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

Just at this time, under the strict but unobtrusive supervision of experts, a representative of TAIF-NK was working on solving the tasks set. Rishat Gusamov is a young but already experienced specialist. By profession, he is a leading engineer of the Metrology Department of the Management of TAIF-NK JSC. He was distracted by the journalist and photographer of Realnoe Vremya only once. With just a glance, he made it clear: “don't distract — it's not the time.”

During the contest, Rishat Gusamov was distracted only once — for photographing. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

When asked what kind of task the metrologists had, Alexander Sabirov explained:

“Each contestant is given a part and a full range of measuring instruments, using which he must verify all dimensions of the part with those indicated in the drawing and must issue a conclusion on the compliance or non-compliance of the part in the table.

Only 45 minutes are allowed for 15 measurements. After the TAIF-NK specialist coped with his task and gave his place at the desk to another contestant, by the way, a colleague from the company Ayrat Daminov, Rishat easily agreed to a short interview.

The geopolitical situation has imposed certain changes on the nature of the work of metrologists. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

“I immediately focused on the task and did not pay attention to what was happening around me and did not relate to the task. As for the competition, it was not difficult. I have made such measurements before, and more than once. The production, of course, has its own specifics, differences in the main tools, but basically everything is the same. As for our work in general, the current geopolitical and economic situation imposes on our service, together with the specialists of the KIP, tasks not only on production issues, but also import substitution issues: measurements are taken from parts, assemblies and elements and are given to domestic performers for production. The need for import substitution has somewhat changed the vector of the tasks facing our service, but the main tasks of metrology remain the same," he said.

The competition was more difficult for Ayrat Daminov, since the tasks were not similar to those that he performs at work. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

For Ayrat Daminov, a metrologist engineer of the 1st category of the Department of the Chief Metrologist, this professional skills competition is the first in a 1,5-year career at TAIF-NK. He admits that everything was new:

“I didn't fully imagine what exactly awaited. The tasks are somewhat different from the areas in which I work. I'm just a little bit from another metrology: verification, measuring instruments, supervision and control over the activities of other departments, we also conduct contracts for verification, calibration, certification. Here we had to work on measuring the part. This is a new but interesting case for me.

Only 45 minutes were given metrologists for 15 measurements. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

In two points, both metrologists representing TAIF-NK at the competition agreed: the first is that such events are interesting and useful, the second is that they both like working at their native enterprise.

“I used to work in the North. On a rotational basis. When I decided to return and settle in the city, I started looking for a job. I got an offer at TAIF-NK. It can be said that for me it turned out almost by accident. But I liked the work. And not just work. Our team is great. And the management appreciates the specialists. There is an opportunity for career growth. Here, I've recently been promoted by one category — from the second to the first. In a year and a half, I think it's very good," Ayrat Daminov shared.

At the time of the competition task, only experts and contestants were in the room. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

“I came to TAIF-NK first to KIP — that is, to control and measuring devices, later switched to automation — this is an automated control system, now — in metrology. I am sure that the most important thing in work is not a high salary, although everything is fine with this at TAIF-NK, but a good team. This is one of the key, main reasons contributing to the consolidation of specialists in our company. It is very important in what atmosphere and in what environment you work. And it is also very important how the management treats the team. At TAIF-NK — it is a competent, responsible, and what is also very important, fair management," Rishat Gusamov added to his colleague.

From morning till late evening

Welding points in the EPC did not know rest for all 4 days. Six equipped workplaces, as it turned out, are too few if there are 3 competencies in the discipline, and the discipline itself is the most massive of all. The first contestants started work at 8 am. The last ones were already when it was getting dark outside the windows, which only added to the difficulties. The hardest part was for those who came from other cities with the team in the morning, and started the tasks last.

The contest itself is far from simple. In 3 hours each contestant had to make 6 control samples.

Six control samples, which the contestants had to weld, had to show their skills. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

“As such, the samples made by the contestants do not have any functionality. That is, it is impossible to use them somewhere later. These are control samples for checking the quality of seams, checking the assembly. For example, “spool”, in addition to the quality of seams, also allows you to check the quality of performance — tightness. Air is supplied to the product under pressure, and it is lowered into the water. If there it doesn't let air, then everything is done correctly. If it does, then the design is not airtight, it is flawed. Besides, we check pipe no rotation welding, T welding in several passes, as well as welding of an ordinary plate," explained Ilshat Zaynakov, an expert in discipline who came from Naberezhnye Chelny.

Ilshat Zaynakov: “It is almost impossible to complete a competitive task for 100 points out of 100.” Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

According to him, the general competitive background and narrow time frames, as a rule, make the contestants seriously nervous. Plus the need to switch between tasks and different types of work. And the task itself is difficult.

“By 100 points out of 100, it's probably impossible to do. In any case, something will be wrong. As a welder with 5 years of experience, I say that it is difficult to keep the width of the seam and the height of the seam. Very difficult. And tightness. It is important to make as few mistakes as possible in comparison with competitors. When in 2019 we hosted the World WorldSkills, where almost the same types of tasks were performed, the maximum score that the contestants could score was 87," expert Ilshat Zaynakov shared his personal observations.

Dmitry Zhuravlev: “I have known since childhood that I would become a welder.” Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

Any tasks are possible to be performed, if you love your job," the contestant representing the gasoline plant of TAIF-NK JSC, electric welder of the 5th category, Dmitry Zhuravlev, is sure.

“I have worked as a welder for 8 years. I feel pleasure from work. I like it. I knew that I was going to study to be a welder since my school days. I also knew that this profession is constantly in demand, and that welders earn well. Motivation (laughs).

Many participants admitted that the competition tasks are familiar from their usual work. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

Before TAIF-NK, Dmitry had worked for another organisation for 5 years. When the opportunity to go work at TAIF-NK appeared, I didn't think for a long time.

“I have workedg here for almost 3 years. Why? Well, first of all, the salary is good. The second is the attitude towards specialists: both the workwear is good, and the attitude of management towards employees.

As the specialist himself admitted, the task did not seem too difficult: all the elements were familiar from work. The difficulty was the other:

“It's just that time was tight a little here. It would be great to have more time, of course, to weld qualitatively and beautifully.

The contestant did not give a forecast about a possible place in the “tournament table”. He referred to that he did not see how others performed. He answered simply: “Let's look at the results.”

Contestants who have already completed their stage are now looking forward to the results. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

His colleague Damir Kubeev, an electric welder from TAIF-NK Refinery, is also looking forward to the results. The total experience of the specialist in the profession is 11 years. At TAIF-NK, like a teammate, he has worked for 3 years.

“In principle, if we talk about the task as a whole, I have encountered all details in my work. That is, there is nothing difficult in general. As they say: experience — everything is familiar. In terms of tasks, it can be worse at work than here — at the competition. Production — it is very seriously and very responsibly. But we are ready for anything. Emotionally... well, we have done everything, everything is fine. The last hour was the most difficult. Because I got a little tired, the noise from grinding is also tiring — it affects," he shared his impressions with the journalist.

Damir Kubeyev: “In terms of tasks, it can be worse at work than here — at the competition.” Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

Meanwhile, it was gradually getting dark outside the windows. The seats at the desks changed the composition of the contestants twice. At the end of the day, semi-automatic welding masters, or “manual arc partially mechanised welding”, a little tired of waiting, took up work. In this competence, TAIF-NK was also represented by two participants. Both are employees of the Heavy Oil Distillation Residue Convertion Complex. The task is the same: 6 control samples. That's just “semi-automatic welders” are given 1.5 times less time for the entire volume than “manual welders”.

“Semi-automatic welders had to complete the same amount of tasks 1,5 times faster.” Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

Ruslan Orlov has been in the profession for 21 years. He admits that he chose his profession as a schoolboy.

“As a child, you come to your grandmother so that you don't hang around on the streets during the holidays, you get different jobs. I saw the work of a welder. I liked it. I decided that I would go to study for this specialty after school. He studied at the 44th college in Nizhnekamsk.

Fedor Markov came to the contest for a rematch for last year's performance. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

His colleague and competitor Fedor Markov is also far from a novice in the profession: 11 years of work at TAIF-NK alone. Last year, he already tested his strength at Alabuga Skills, however, in a different welding competence. But then, by his own admission, he got nervous. Now he came for a rematch. He notes that every welder in production is a specialist of a wide profile, and therefore is ready for any tasks:

“Our work is not only related to semi-automatic — there is both argon welding and manual welding. In the workshop where welding needs to be done, there is repair, here some blocks need to be made.

In modern production, the welder is also versatile, ready for any tasks. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

“There is always enough work, and every day there are new tasks. Each type of welding has its own conditions, you need to switch. It is not so easy to switch from manual welding to argon. On a semi-automatic machine — the same thing. Each type of welding has its own pace of work," Ruslan Orlov supported his colleague.

Both came to the contest with one desire — to win. The company gave time to prepare. Opportunities to hone skills, too. The contestants themselves did everything possible and depending on them for a successful performance. Now it remains only to wait for the final results.

For a new victory

A year ago, chemical analysis laboratory assistant from the gasoline plant Gulnur Kurbangalieva already won silver at Alabuga Skills. This time, the young woman is also determined to get a prize.

“Last year, it was exciting, the fact that for the first time. This year, it's already quieter somehow: I already know what to expect. But it's still a little scary. But we have come for a victory," the contestant shared in an interview.

In 2022, Gulnur Kurbangalieva became the silver medalist of Alabuga Skills. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

The participants of the competitions in other competencies said that Gulnur herself and Veronika Shugurova, a chemical analysis laboratory assistant from the refinery, rustled notes, diagrams, regulations all the way to Alabuga. They were preparing seriously. Gulnur, as a more experienced participant of the competition (although her experience in the laboratory of the Gasoline plant is only 2 years), encouraged and mentored a colleague whose experience at TAIF-NK has already been 5 years. But the republican contest is the first one. Although Veronika Shugurova also has victories behind her: not so long ago she has become the best at the factory competition.

Veronika Shugurova became the winner of the factory competition and aims to win the republican one. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

What did you ask a colleague about? Tried to find out — what and how can it be here? What kind of platform? How many people? Absolutely everything was interesting. What can be in the tasks? What kind of tricky questions can there be? What can get in the way? From the moment I found out that I would become a participant of Alabuga Skills, I began to approach the devices in a different way. I started to look at them literally inside out. To dig into them," Veronika honestly admitted.

Compared to last year, the number of participants in the “Chemical Analysis” competence has doubled. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

However, when the expert began to give instructions on the upcoming tests, the contestants instantly forgot about all the worries. Yes, the appliances, utensil, equipment are slightly different from those in the native laboratories, but the work is almost the same.

“Here, as at other venues, the task for the contestants is divided into two modules. The first is titration on an automatic titrator. It is necessary to find the concentration of the substance in the sample. And the second module is spectrophotometry," Tatyana Prudnikova, senior engineer-mentor of Alabuga Polytech in the direction of Laboratory Chemical Analysis, briefly explained to journalists what the contestants had to do in the next few hours.

Tatiana Prudnikova is the author of competitive tasks. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

It is she who is the author of the competitive tasks, monitors the correctness and quality of the work of the participants of the professional competitions. As the expert herself admitted, this year the task is more difficult than in 2022. The number of contestants in the competence has almost doubled. By the way, the expert remembered Gulnur Kurbangalieva from last year's performance. As she shared with journalists, the representative of TAIF-NK is not the only one who is eager for a new victory.

Not only competition

Ruslan Dashigullin is an engineer and teacher of Electric Installation at Alabuga Polytech and expert in this discipline in the competition: the contest in his competence wasn’t a walk in the park for the competitors. Like in other classrooms, the competition here had two modules: the first is assembly of engine reverse circuit with a motion sensor. It is the circuit that turns equipment on in factories if some careless person crosses the red line and turns out dangerously close to the machine tool. The second is junction box commutation.

According to Ruslan Dashigullin, the tasks in Electric Installation must be well known to competitors. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

“An hour and 40 minutes are given to do the tasks in the first module, and 40 minutes for the second one.”

This time is more than enough in real conditions to do this job. But only if an electrician works with engine maintenance. If a person is too nervous or lacks experience, there is a risk of making a mistake. One slip and the circuit won’t turn on.

However, the engineer thinks that Alabuga Skills doesn’t have losers:

“It is not only a competition but also an opportunity to peek how your opponent assembles it. It is an opportunity to expand your knowledge, experience. This kind of experience is the main task of such competitions — to learn intricacies, prowess, learn something new. It is useful for both the older generation and the youth.”

Alabuga Skills is not only a competition but also an opportunity to exchange experience. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

Two representatives of the oil refinery Farit Fazlyev and Ayrat Khusnutdinov defended the honour of TAIF-NK in this competency.

Faster doesn’t mean easier

Maarif Zeynalov put things right. The expert in Industrial Automatics was invited to the competition to Alabuga Polytech from Naberezhnye Chelny. The competitors had to go through two stages of competition. At the first stage, they had to find three errors in a connected circuit in 1.5 hours. At the second stage, they had to programme a stand in 2.5 hours.

Not every competitor manages to do all the tasks in Industrial Automatics. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

“I wouldn’t say that the shorter task is easier. It is rather a task for those working in maintenance: instrumentation and control engineers, to find, mark on the circuit and eliminate the error. The second task is rather for programmers, and it has a bit different requirements. During the competition, some specialists perfectly did one task and failed in another.

Here two competitors with big experience represented TAIF-NK. Alexey Gordeyev is a leading process control system engineer in Shop No. 1 of the oil refinery, he has been working since 2021. He joined TAIF-NK nine years ago.

Alexey Gordeyev: “I am competing in such a contest for the first time. I would like to try my hand very much.” Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

“I participated in my first professional competition a long time ago: I was working in another enterprise then, and it was an internal competition. I am competing in this one for the first time. I agreed immediately. I wanted to try my hand very much. As for preliminary preparation, I cannot say I have been preparing so much. It is our main job. Here I have done what we do at work,” the competitor agreed to briefly give us an interview during a break between the stages.

Ildar Khabibullin was interested in the possibility of professional retraining of TAIF-NK specialists at Alabuga Polytech more. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

The other representative of TAIF-NK Ildar Khabibullin working as vice chief metrologist of the oil refinery talked little about his participation. However, he was seriously interested in upgrading qualification at Alabuga Polytech for the factory’s specialists:

“We should certainly go, see how it all works to prepare better for the next year. We have very qualified specialists in the factory who can do any task. I know almost all the lads who work in our plant. We organise training. I have talked with a teacher here if they provided professional retraining. I think all workers of our enterprise would come here to refresh their knowledge with pleasure. The educational institution is very well equipped. Perhaps, we don’t have so many well-equipped sites,” he shared with possible prospects of further cooperation with the centre.

To keep in the workplace

There is huge job done at TAIF-NK to make skilled jobs more popular behind the signature phrase. The company developed a staff policy to attract young specialists. A dual training programme plays a big role here. It is when students study theory in an educational institution and do practice in the workplace. Participant in this contest Farit Fazlyev came to the company this way.

Farit Fazlyev came to TAIF-NK in dual training programme. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

“I have been working at TAIF-NK for a year and four months now. I came here for a number of reasons: firstly, the enterprise closely cooperates with our college. I started working here in dual practice. It turns out that I hadn’t completed my studies at college when we were referred for paid practice with further employment. After the graduation, TAIF-NK offered good working conditions. I like the salary, the schedule, relations with my colleagues. As for career development, it is more than real at TAIF-NK. So I was given the fifth degree for the first place in the factory’s professional prowess competition. And my salary notable increased. It is good motivation to keep working,” the young specialist noted in a talk with Realnoe Vremya’s journalist.

Anton Tukhvatullin: “23 specialists were hired by TAIF-NK in the dual training programme last year. 45 are planned to be employed in 2023.” Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

Head of technical training at TAIF-NK JSC Anton Tukhvatullin talked about this practice in detail:

“We actively work with the youth, constantly provide a place for practice and pick the best. Even when we hold internal professional competitions, students compete with our specialists as equals, we organise a professional competition, for instance, our long-term partner, the Lemayev Petrochemistry and Oil Refining College. It goes without saying that we keep an eye on these students and later invite them to work either in the dual training system or as employee after graduation. By the way, we plan to hire 45 people in the dual system in 2023. Moreover, most of them are already employed by TAIF-NK. We hired 23 people last year.”

A talent pool is created with more active and successful specialists at TAIF-NK. Photo: Maxim Platonov/

A talent pool — those specialists who aren’t afraid to show off, make innovative offers, actively participate in the company’s social projects, professional competitions of different scales — is created with the current workers. The best have real opportunity to climb the career ladder. There are examples at hand, Anton Tukhvatullin is sure:

“It is no secret that our director general, chief engineer and other managers of the company started their career in the enterprise in plants and now they are the top echelon. What other examples are needed to see prospects of career development?”

The management of the company and particularly the director general are an example of career development for young specialists. Photo: Maxim Platonov/

Director General of TAIF-NK JSC Maxim Novikov told Realnoe Vremya in one of his interviews. According to him, professional competitions played an important role in how quickly and successfully he climbed the career ladder:

“I used to participate in such competitions too. And the management encouraged us to, through career development. For instance, I became a shop foreman after a successful performance in an operators’ professional competition — 100 points out of 100,” Maxim Novikov shared his memories.

In 1999, Maxim Novikov joined TAIF-NK as operator of waste heat boilers, today he chairs the company. Photo: Maxim Platonov/

As for staff, TAIF-NK not only saved but also took the mentorship, support and stimulation of employees for professional development to a new level. Seeing the company’s interest in them, people reciprocate the feelings.

Dmitry Zhuravlyov plans to get a higher education in the future. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

As for career growth, a lot of turns on the specialist. For instance, now I think about getting a higher education, it will open more opportunities for me,” competitor of Alabuga Skills 2023, electrician and gas welder from the oil refinery Dmitry Zhuravlyov shared his plans.

Gulnur Kurbangaliyeva loves her job, but the stability and opportunity to show off attract her too. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

“TAIF-NK is good working conditions, good and stable salary, an opportunity to show off, for instance, in such competitions. I like working here,” said silver medallist of 2022 Alabuga Skills, chemical analysis assistant Gulnur Kurbangaliyeva.

Farit Fazlyev is happy about his colleagues in the enterprise. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

“The staff has a huge meaning as one of the key components of working conditions. You spend a shift in the enterprise every day. In fact, it is half of life. And I can say that our staff is very good,” Farit Fazlyev who represented TAIF-NK at Alabuga Skills is convinced.

Alexey Gordeyev thinks that it is necessary to fully dedicate yourself to work and then a specialist will be noticed. Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/

“It is just necessary to fully dedicate yourself at work, and then you will be noticed. I started working as 2nd degree engineer, now I am a leading specialist,” Alexey Gordeyev talked about his personal example of career success.

“I am really in love with my job. And I daily go to work with pleasure. Look around in our enterprise: how much effort has been put here, the scale is huge. And how much is being done right now! We have things to be proud of and to aspire for,” Ildar Khaybullin doesn’t hide his feelings.

Ildar Khaybullin: “TAIF-NK has things to be proud of and what to aspire for.” Photo: Dinar Fatykhov/ Ad of TAIF-NK JSC.

As for the results of Alabuga Skills competition, three in seven TAIF-NK representatives won medals last year. It will be clear soon how many winners there will be this year: the solemn ceremony was going to be held on the last day of winter, on 27 February, during a meeting of the Tatarstan Ministry of Industry and Trade. Tatarstan Rais Rustam Minnikhanov is expected to congratulate the medallists.

Arseny Favstritsky